Calgary politician stands up for bike lanes with business opposition: will Toronto politicians do the same?

Calgary is installing a couple downtown bike lanes next year, and local alderman Brian Piincott isn't caving into local business pressure to stop them.

The bike lanes will remove parking on one side of the street, and this concerns the Calgary Downtown Business Association's Maggie Schofield. Schofield claims that “we already know from other jurisdictions that there's a huge potential for loss of business and so that's why we asked for an economic impact study and a current state assessment."

Alderman Brian Pincott said the new lanes are meant to create a safer environment for cycling and that there's still plenty of parking downtown. “I don't see a single business suffering at lunchtime on Stephen Avenue because there are no cars and no parking on Stephen Avenue.”

Meanwhile in Toronto, the Harbord Village BIA, and in particular, the Harbord Bakery, is convinced that filling in the gap in the bike lanes from Brunswick to Spadina will hurt business. Councillor Vaughan has done little to dissuade this notion. Instead last year he even sent out a letter to residents warning of the "problems" posed by separated bike lanes on Harbord:

If approved, the proposed lanes would require half the commercial parking to be eliminated. Since the morning rush hour has the most intense traffic flow, it is likely that the parking on the south side of the street would be lost.

Vaughan could have told the BIA that he would take their parking concerns into account and work on finding additional off-street parking in exchange for a safer cycling route. He missed that opportunity.

More recently, however, Vaughan approved of the separated bike lanes on Hoskin to St. George, putting it within spitting distance of the standoff at Spadina. Vaughan said that he didn't feel there needed to be any public consultation along this stretch. Given that it's dominated by the university where many bike, it makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is the opposition from retail along that tiny stretch of Harbord, and why politicians have been so wary to step on any toes there. The internationally-known study of retail and cycling on Bloor in the Annex showed us that business owners overestimate the percentage of customers who arrive by car and underestimate the percentage of cash that cycling customers are bringing in. (Thankfully, the BIA and residents association along Bloor between Bathurst and Spadina are now in support of bike lanes.)

Anyone who bikes along Harbord notices the constant stream of cyclists during rush hour (backed up by this 2010 Bike Cordon Count). Recently I did an informal count while drinking coffee at Sam James. I found that bikes comprised about 50% of all the peak direction (eastbound) traffic from 8 to 9 am! If there's anywhere in this city where we need a complete and separated bike lane, it is Harbord.

What we need is a politician with the guts of Pincott.


One parking spot would mean it will be occupied by one point three (1.3) people during the duration it is there.

Herb wasn't at that meeting about three years ago, prior to the repaving of Harbord's curb lane, where Yvonne B, then of the then-Cyclists' Union. was Just Fine with what exists there now - a 24-parking option, and a wider lane with many sharrows in the remnant space. In fact, she was kinda critical/dismissive of my efforts to push for full bike lanes through these 4 (not 3) blocks.

While imperfect, this compromise is working better than expected perhaps, and could set a model maybe for other tighter TO streets.

I would suggest to Herb and the Ct/CU folks that given the relatively fresh condition of Harbord, their recent support for this re-design, and the dire needs almost everywhere else in the City for either smooth roads or bike facilities, that they get themselves removed from this separation thing (which may be abject failures in wintertime given the snow "clearance" practices) and bring us new bike lanes, just painted ones are OK, to provide a real network in all of TO.

For instance, Harbord ends at Ossington - then what? If there's separations along Hoskin, how will the interplay between two types of bike lanes occur? Why not push for new bike lanes - at very long last - on Richmond/Adelaide first looked at merely 20 years ago, and a part of the bike plan, including a commitment to study?

What about Lawrence? Why not bike lanes on Bayview? Or other streets eg. Danforth? that really does have extra width for separations!

Harbord is a mess and on-street car parking is the bane of a decent bike network in any city whether it's Toronto or NYC. The argument that removing car parking hurts business is a myth. Yonge Street manages just fine to attract business. Separated lanes - when designed well and as part of a smart, integrated network - are how any city achieves a fundamental modal shift to safe cycling. We must look to cities that have succeeded in doing so such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Both cities have very high percentages of everyday cyclists, with low collision rates and fatality rates, low percentage of people wearing helmets, and similar weather to Toronto and other parts of Canada. No more excuses; no more compromises.

on-street car parking is the bane of a decent bike network in any city

Actually, the northbound Sherbourne painted lane ran to the left of car parking, and was wide enough to be perfectly rideable. And no cars parked in the bike lane because they parked to the right of the bike lane.

[Amsterdam and Copenhagen have] similar weather to Toronto

Umm, nope, both cities have much less freezing weather and don't get as hot in summer.

Days when the sun is out and melts snow will be interesting on the new separated Sherbourne lanes. All those rivulets of water freeze by sunset. I find riding on trails with these patches of ice to be pretty awful. Never know when you'll find yourself on your side. This is actually an issue with the Martin Goodman trail; even where it's cleared of snow, it has all these patches of ice when snow on the ground surrounding the trail melts and then freezes when the sun gets lower. Extra fun if you're riding after dark!

(This is much less of an issue if you can move over to where the cars drive. However, cars can crush new-fallen snow to black ice in I have discovered....)

Northbound Sherbourne is an exception. The parking spaces there are for the most part not occupied when I ride it (weekdays after work). It's also a slightly uphill ride so people tend to ride slower. The bike/parking lane there appears to be wider and traffic appears to be slower then most places, both contributing to it's safe feel.
I've never ridden on any other road with on-street parking on the right like this in the city. Contrast it to Davenport around Avenue road for example. Running this gauntlet is the most hazardous part of my day.

Toronto's public policy is one that supports cars over bikes in most cases.

We could wait for a 'Robin Hood' like Calgary's Pincott, or we can decide to organize our communities to support cycling.

Who says it's working better? You? I'm not clear on why we shouldn't push for a complete bike lane on Harbord when we're so close already.

I also don't understand your idea that we should instead look towards Lawrence or Bayview for bike lanes instead of these few blocks. There are more people biking on Harbord than on almost any other Toronto street, except College. Why don't we work towards a good network on these heavily trafficked streets? City Council has already approved studies for both Harbord and Richmond & Adelaide, so need to choose between them either.

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